Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Redskins Report Card: Week 11 vs. Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys 14, Redskins 10

All I know is that the Redskins are in for a fight the rest of the way if they want to play in the postseason. I've decided that, for this and all future games against Dallas, I won't be using letters in the report card. It's just too difficult to separate myself from the emotion of the Dallas game. So, while my analysis will be standard, the grading system will be essentially useless. Sorry. :)

Offense: ?-

I don't know what a suitable grade is for the offense, but I know a "minus" belongs at the end of it. This offense was tough to watch. The Redskins picked up 136 net passing yards (passing yards minus yards lost on sacks), and only 92 rushing yards. Clinton Portis' knee injury can be partially blamed for the imbalance in the playcalling (18 rush, 38 pass), but only partially. That kind of disparity will only favor teams that have an elite group of receivers, like the Cardinals or Patriots. Even the Cowboys, who might have the best set of receivers in football between Terrell Owens, Roy Williams, and Jason Witten, had 28/27 rushing/passing splits.

The 'Skins are precisely the kind of team that needs to be effective running the ball, too. They've got a good bend-don't-break defense that doesn't give up many points, and can really benefit from good punting (which it seems they have now), good return game (still shouldn't be using Randle-El as much...or at all), and a ball-control offense. So when this team passes more than double the number of times they run the ball, don't expect them to win.

Devin Thomas is still not ready to play at the NFL level, but he seems like he's at least got the ability to get open. In reflecting on things, I'm starting to realize that those three 2nd-round picks from the 2008 draft were made with 2009 and 2010 in mind, not so much this season. So while I'd like to see Thomas, Malcolm Kelly, and Fred Davis start to light it up on the field, that's not what they were brought in to do. Not yet, at least.

Defense: %-

The defense played worse than they've played in recent weeks. What's that? They got two interceptions and held the Cowboys to under 200 yards passing? Yes, that's true, they did. But they were run over by a strong ground attack, which I predicted when we were reviewing the first Dallas game this season. It seemed like every other play was "Barber Toss," in Madden terms, but the 'Skins just couldn't stop it.

DeAngelo Hall seems like a positive addition to the secondary, especially when Shawn Springs just can't stay healthy. He's as talented as Carlos Rogers and has even better hands, giving Washington one of the better sets of coverage corners in the league. And that's important, since the defensive line can't get a lick of pressure. Romo didn't get sacked once, which is even more embarrassing when you consider that the Cowboys have a pretty crummy offensive line, and Romo was already uncomfortable because of his pinky injury. You've got to think that if Romo hadn't remained unscathed early, he mightn't have had the confidence to throw some of the key passes he made in the second half, specifically the touchdown pass to Martellus Bennett.

My point is, there's work to do on the defensive side of the ball as well. We can't be thinking that the Redskins have a set defense and only the offense needs work. Without a pass rush, I have a hard time thinking this is a playoff team.

Special Teams: 6.3

There's a reason for the number. That's how many return yards Randle El has averaged on punts over the course of the season. Enough is enough. DeAngelo Hall is a decent return guy, or could be. Let's give him a shot. When your offense is as low-powered as the Redskins', you've got to take yards where you can get them. Is it the fault of the whole special teams unit? Has the blocking been less than stellar? Maybe. But it certainly doesn't hurt to try a new guy back there. It'd be pretty tough to do worse than Randle El.

The punting was very good, and I still like Suisham. Not much else to say about that.

Overall: C-

Okay, I lied, I'm giving them an overall grade. Their offense played a little bit better than they did against the Steelers, but the defense played a little bit worse, so they get the same overall grade. Springs is obviously going to be of no use to the Redskins this season, which makes it even more important that they acquired Hall. I'm hoping the trio of Hall, Rogers, and Fred Smoot can lock down the passing game so that defensive coordinator Greg Blache can start sending the occasional linebacker or safety on a blitz.

Next week is a return to Seattle for Jim Zorn, and a return to the place where the Redskins' season ended last year. I really don't like Seattle; a blowout would definitely be nice, but just a win would work.

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